May 30, 2007

US Airways contract would balance pay

PHOENIX - US Airways Group on Friday released details of a contract proposal for its pilots that it says would level pay scales between pilots who worked for US Airways and higher-paying America West Airlines before the airlines combined in 2005.

The proposal is designed to put in place a unified contract for all the pilots, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

But the offer was soundly panned by the head of the US Airways arm of the pilots union, who said the airline's proposal was viewed as ‘‘extremely insulting'' when it was presented to the two pilots groups earlier this month.

‘‘This merger will never get off the ground unless the airline gets serious about negotiating with the pilots,'' said Capt. Jack Stephan, head of the US Airways pilots group.

A phone call seeking comment from US Airways was not immediately returned Friday afternoon.

US Airways pilots and those from America West have separate contracts, but have been operating under a transition agreement on work rules since a bankrupt US Airways was swallowed by America West in September 2005.

Pilots have been picketing periodically at airports to try to get their message across to the flying public.

The proposal would cost the airline about $122 million more per year, the filing said. Much of the extra expense comes from raising pay for US Airways pilots to higher rates paid to America West pilots.

In addition, the company said it is proposing to increase the America West pilot pay scale by 3 percent.

Overall, pilots would receive hourly pay increases ranging from 3 percent to 17 percent, averaging 10 percent, the company said.

The airline wants the contract terms extended by three years, to 2012, and says the added costs are worth the expense for the certainty of the longer contract.

Stephan said both pilots groups told the company they were unhappy with the proposal.

‘‘We told the company that these pilots - America West and US Airways - we are not paying the cost of the merger. We paid enough already, and we are not subsidizing the merger,'' he said.

Stephan said US Airways pilots alone have contributed more than $6.8 billion in concessions on wages, lost pensions, lost benefits, and below-average medical care since the old company's bankruptcy.

Source: Mohave Daily News

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